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March 20, 2013
Hokies Wrestling At NCAAs Tomorrow
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For those in the wrestling hotbed Midwestern states, they'd understand the term.
At the ACC wrestling championships March 9 at the University of Maryland, Virginia tech coach Kevin Dresser noticed that his wrestlers' 'dobber was down.' In simple terms, their morale was low.
But it didn't stay low for long as in the final match, the Hokies claimed victory and won the ACC championship. Now, it's off to the NCAA championships, which begin tomorrow in Des Moines, Iowa, where 10 Virginia Tech wrestlers will compete.
For the past few years, the Hokies had dominated the rest of the conference in dual meets. But when it came to the conference championship, they couldn't get it done.
That naturally created a few mental blocks, like Virginia Tech couldn't get through. Trailing going into the final match, it might not have surprised Dresser that a few Hokies didn't look like they were on the verge of winning.
"We had three guys, at 174, 184 and 197 that lost real close matches, kinda heartbreaking matches in the semis," Dresser said. "To step out there an hour and a half later and have to win in order to get to the consolation finals says a lot about those three guys. That's gut check time. When you lose a close match in the semis and you have to step back out there in an hour and a half with your dobber down, that's a tough deal."
The final match featured heavyweight Dave Marone, a sixth-year senior who had been a part of the previous Virginia Tech struggles. It was only fitting then that Marone would be the one to end the futility. He pulled out an 8-0 victory over Virginia's Derek Papagianopoulos that clinched a team win of just 95.5 to 90.5 over the Cavaliers.
"I don't think it could have ended any better than it did," Marone said. "Having an up and down year, having injuries last year and not knowing if I'm gonna come back for a sixth year, it just made it all worth it, not only winning my first individual title but having the team on my back, going into the last match. I got the win, got my hand raised and my team was right there when I stepped off the mat, just celebrating as a team, which we'd never done before."
Marone leads a group of 10 wrestlers that ranks seventh in the country in the USA Today/Coaches poll. At 165 pounds, senior Pete Yates is the highest ranked seed for the NCAA championships, at No. 3, while senior Jarrod Garnett isn't far behind as the No. 5 seed at 125 pounds. At 157 pounds, senior Jesse Dong is seeded seventh, while at 149 pounds, sophomore Nick Brascetta is seeded eighth.
Virginia Tech has sent a number of individuals to the NCAAs in the past. But coming off and ACC title, this time feels a bit different.
"When we came back, we were excited and the first thing people were talking about was going right back to work," Garnett said. "Before, we came back to Blacksburg after ACCs with our tails tucked between our legs, we're kinda sulking, kicking ourselves. We came back this year and we kinda had a renewed excitement going forward. Everyone's spirits have been higher this year and everyone is feeling it."
Having officially claimed the top spot in the ACC, the Hokies have their sights on claiming the national title. And the confidence is high as they prepare to get going in Iowa.
"I do think having a good ACC tournament and having that does springboard us into nationals," Marone said. "It gives us kinda like the gorilla off your back. You're more relaxed, you put less pressure on yourself like we've gotta redeem ourselves at nationals. It has been a fairly relaxed mood since then compared to past years, which can springboard us to nationals and help us wrestle better. We always wrestle better when we're more relaxed."
Safe to say the 'dobbers' are back up.
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